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Pandemic Drives Surge in Subscription Gaming Amongst 3 to 16-Year-Olds

The games industry has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic; it has provided kids with a way to alleviate the boredom of lockdown through gaming and socialising digitally with friends. The Futuresource Kids Tech consumer survey, now in its 13th wave, addresses these gaming trends amongst kids between the ages of 3-16, providing a glimpse into a broader report that delves into the digital lifestyle of Kids across China, Germany, UK, USA, France, Brazil and Mexico.

COVID Driving Up the Gaming Hours

According to the Futuresource Kids Tech study, the end of 2020 saw that COVID-19 had resulted in 65% of kids increasing their time spent gaming. According to the Futuresource Kids Tech study, the end of 2020 saw that COVID had resulted in 65% of kids increasing their time spent gaming, with a third of kids gaming every day on a smartphone across the 7 markets combined – rising to over 40% in the USA. Unsurprisingly, only 6% of respondents suggested their child was playing games for less time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Free online video and TV viewing have seen the biggest casualties, with 28% of kids stating that they watch less video and TV content as a result of the rise in time spent gaming.

Gaming and the Netflix Moment

Even before the pandemic, news regarding subscription gaming services were hitting the tech press headlines. “Gaming was already on the verge of having its Netflix moment,” says Morris Garrard, Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting. “The investment from tech giants and initial consumer anticipation of these services really underlines the opportunity for this model to develop further. Throw Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, Uplay+ and EA Play into the equation and we can see the momentum has already started to build. With more investment in these offerings and, crucially, more compelling content catalogues, subscription gaming service providers are now starting to overcome the inertia that once hindered consumer uptake of nascent subscription gaming services, with widespread consumer acceptance of the business model in video and music entertainment industries now finally cascading into the gaming industry.”

Who Dominates the Subscription Playing Field?

This theme is reflected in the Kids Tech Report, with the Xbox Game Pass continuing to command its position as the number one subscription service, with over 40% of respondents subscribing to Xbox Game Pass. With the number two position taken by Sony’s PlayStation Now service, the remaining battlefield is fiercely contended by several vendors with serious fire power, include EA Play, Apple Arcade and Ubisoft Uplay +. Futuresource’s next wave of research in June will also assess the new kid on the block Amazon with its Luna release.

The Journey from Play to Pay

Considering all the different platforms and gaming content available, there is certainly a myriad of possibilities for kids to engage in different fantasy worlds, to embark and compete in multiple gaming challenges, and to interact virtually with friends across gaming networks. This is having an influence on the intention to play and pay for games. Futuresource ranks the ‘intention to subscribe’ to a gaming content services in each country. The USA ranked first at 22% of respondents, Mexico second at 19% and Brazil at third with 18%. The lowest was in France at 4%. The age category with the highest ‘intention to subscribe’ was the 7-10 age category at 14%. “Game title loyalty and intention to subscribe will be driven by the time and energy kids invest in the different games, as well as the social network of virtual playmates that are on said platforms,” added Garrard.

Major Franchises Continue to Win Out

Minecraft remains the top PC/console title played for all countries covered, with major titles Roblox, Fortnite and EA’s FIFA series clipping at the leader’s heels in each market. Comparatively for mobile, Candy Crush, Pokemon Go, Angry birds, Subway surfers, PUBG, Roblox and Fruit Ninja came out on top in a much more fragmented market. The free to play dominance in the smartphone space is sparking continued in-game advertising innovation, with the roadmap to improved personalisation continuing to accelerate.

Games Going Social

As well as playing video games, kids are spending ever increasing amounts of time watching their favourite gaming influencers streaming gameplay via social media platforms, re-living the gaming experience through the ever-rising and powerful social influencers. According to the Kids Tech study, over 60% of 3–16-year-olds are watching games-related content online. In terms of platforms, YouTube Gaming was the most popular at 65% of respondents, followed by gaming community hub Twitch at 27%, and relative newcomer and mobile gaming focused Facebook Gaming at 18%. Watching others play video games is becoming big business and will impact the entertainment industry, as it will siphon advertising spend towards new mediums and business models in the gaming world.

For more information on the Kids Tech Study please visit https://www.futuresource-consulting.com and contact kailash.morjaria@futuresource-hq.com

*The fieldwork was completed using an online survey in December 2020. A sample of approximately 1,400 respondents were targeted in each country – with quotas set against both age and gender. Please note that the field work was conducted during the lockdown period, and as a result, wave on wave comparisons are likely to be affected.

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Morris Garrard

About the author

Morris Garrard

Morris Garrard is a Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, leading our research across core gaming categories such as Content and Hardware as well as related industries such as Gaming Headsets & Accessories, Esports and XR.

Morris works within the Mobile Tech & Gaming Team and as such is also involved in projects tracking markets such as Mobile Handsets, PCs and Retail Distribution. Morris joined Futuresource in 2019 and holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Birmingham.

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